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They found a giant flying insect from the Jurassic period at Walmart.

(CNN) — A species of insect found on the side of a large store in Fayetteville, Arkansas has been identified. Polystochotes punctataIt belongs to a family of insects that predate the dinosaurs.

Michael Skvarla, director of the Insect Identification Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, was a doctoral student in entomology at the University of Arkansas when he saw the Jurassic-era creature, also known as the giant lacewing, on a shopping trip in 2012.

“I remember it vividly because I was walking to Walmart to buy milk and I saw this big bug on the side of the building.” Skvarla said in a statement. “I thought it was interesting, so I put it in my hand and did my shopping between my fingers. Came home, drove it, and promptly forgot about it for almost a decade.”

Squirla initially mistook the lacewing for an antlion, a dragonfly-like insect that shares some characteristics with the lacewing, including long conspicuous wings. But after presenting the insect in his online entomology course in the fall of 2020, he realized that what he had in those years was something much rarer and more impressive.

He conducted further DNA analysis to confirm the insect’s identity, and the giant lacewing has now become part of its collection. Frost Museum of Entomology at Penn State.

The disappearance of the giant lacewing

The giant lacewing disappeared in the 1950s from eastern North America, where it was once widespread, said Skvarla’s co-author B.Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. Scientists assumed that the species had been completely eradicated from the region. A lacewing recently discovered in Arkansas is the state’s first record of the species.

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“Entomology can serve as a leading indicator of ecology,” Skvarla said in the report. “The fact that this insect has been found in a region where it hasn’t been seen for more than half a century tells us something broader about the environment.”

While the insect is suspected to have mysteriously disappeared from efforts to extinguish natural wildfires in eastern North America, the biggest mystery is how the insect ended up in a supermarket in urban Arkansas, according to the document. .

“It’s probably been 100 years since (the species) was in this area, anywhere near it has been years. “The next closest place they were found was almost 2,000 kilometers away, so it’s unlikely they traveled that far,” Skvarla said. He suggested the lacewing flew at least a few hundred meters away from where it lived, attracted by the lights.

Schwarla’s discovery opens the door to future lacewing discoveries, as insect enthusiasts begin searching through their own collections for species in the wild in places they might not have thought to look before, said Dr. Floyd Shockley, the department’s manager of collections. Entomology Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

“Any time you find an insect species that’s not where it’s used to, it has a lot of implications for our understanding of that species: the type of distribution it has, the ecosystem it needs to complete its life cycle,” Shockley said. “This means that there may still be something that we thought was at least from the eastern United States, hiding in little pockets.”

“They help capture different snapshots of biodiversity over time and allow us to see what’s happening,” said Shockley, who also noted the importance of museum collections like the Smithsonian or Penn State. Is that so? happening.”

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“Everybody always focuses on the big things: the big birds and mammals and things like that. But this is the world of insects. … We make a living from it,” Shockley said. “It’s really important to get that kind of appreciation. And one of the great things about insects is that there’s so much diversity that you can appreciate right in your own backyard.”